Spring Comes To Northern Ohio



It’s official–Spring has arrived to Northern Ohio!!  Well, actually, it is official that Spring has arrived all over the Northern Hemisphere. We don’t usually think about Spring in other parts of the world, or Fall for that matter. Not until we start traveling to other places that is. My best friend (is that “bff” ?) teaches biology and other sciences in Melbourne, Victoria. That is in Australia and that is in the Southern Hemisphere. He just saw the arrival of Autumn and he is extra happy this year. You see, the past summer brought incredible extremes to southern Australia. You may have heard about the terrible fires that “broke-out” just outside of Melbourne this past month. I put quotes around “broke-out” because arson is suspected. But Mother Nature created the conditions that led to this disaster. You see, I have been following the weather in Melbourne for the past 5 years or so. Ever since I traveled to Trinity Grammar School one year and the University of Melbourne the next to teach teacher workshops on genetics and evolution. The Australian state of Victoria has had a drought for the past 7 years. About a month ago I noticed that there was a 90 degree F difference in the temperatures of Concord, Ohio and Melbourne, Australia. It was 14 degrees here in Ohio and 104 degrees in Melbourne. Later that same month it got up to 114 – 116 degrees F with strong winds. It was very dry and the conditions for a fire disaster were perfect. That’s when the fires “broke-out.” Over 230 people perished. Two educational aids at my friend’s son’s school are included in this total. Here is a link for a short video about how the fires impacted one of Australia’s most beautiful parks–Wilson’s Promontory.

Why did I bring this up? Well, for a number of reasons.

I am currently teaching a series of environmental classes to a group of 3rd through 8th grade students that are enrolled in an after school program for identified gifted students. Our first session was designed to help them understand what we mean by “the environment.” We looked at their place in the world. Almost like “Cosmic Zoom” or “Powers of 10″. We traveled from where they stood out past the edge of the solar system. Of course this was virtual travel utilizing the power of Google Earth. Then we zoomed back in. As we settled back to Earth I started to discuss the environmental boundaries we were passing. Continents and biomes and then watersheds. It was the watershed concept that I was really after. Our local environment is on a 250-acre plot of beautifully forested land owned by the county Metro Parks. The Environmental Learning Center is lucky enough to have two different watersheds (or at least parts of them,) within its borders. We eventually would be studying both Jordan Creek and Big Creek (a wonderful Steelhead stream and a part of the Lake Erie watershed.) I wanted the students to understand “Where In the World They Were.”

–So my Australian observation connects to “Where In the World Are We?” If you are here in Northern Ohio, it is now springtime. If you are in Melbourne, it is autumn. In fact it is 9:23 Monday morning (I am typing this at 6:23 pm Sunday evening.) The students are closer to the beginning of their school year, Ohio students are starting to look for the end of the year (some Ohio students actually start thinking about the end of the school year in October, but that is another problem ;)

Second, I think that we all need to think about the impact our abiotic environment has on us and on the biota around us. The conditions for disaster in Melbourne were set in motion by the high air temps, the low humidity and the high winds (not to mention the years of drought that preceded the fires.) The beginning of spring in Northern Ohio brings about lots of new plants, lots of returning birds and lots of moving amphibians, reptiles, fish, and insects.precision-is-important1

That’s what this entry is all about–the changing face of our environment, wherever it is. We visit Jordan Creek; we monitor the physical and chemical parameters of the Creek We survey what is living in and along the creek. All of this helps us to determine the nature of our environment. It is all a part of “Where In the World We Are!” We need to remember the “big pictures” as we investigate the details of the world around us.  Too often we get bogged down in the details of what we are trying to teach and lose the “bigger picture.”  Sometimes we need to “zoom” out and look from above.  We talk about systems throughout our classes–molecular systems, cellular systems, body systems, ecosystems…..  we need to apply this to the world around us as it changes and impacts  lives of our families, our friends, our students and ourselves.  How do you connect your daily lessons to the things that are happening around the world?  How do you “convince” your students that the concepts that they are reading about, hearing about and studying about are the same concepts that impact the environments all over the world?

As spring progresses and helps us forget some of the winter that just passed,  let’s hope the weather holds and our nets don’t have holes that are too big !! My students tell me that “Summer is almost here!!”  The Last Turkey Of Winter



  • rheyden says:

    Very nice, Rich. I loved your description of the coming spring and the importance of keeping the big picture in mind as we investigate the details. So much of this is about noticing, right? Paying attention and noticing. For instance, when I went outside this morning, I noticed birdsong. The first birdsong of spring, here in New England, breaking the silence of winter. Also liked your Wordle – is made up of the text from this entry?

  • richardbenz says:

    We had our first birdsong morning just about a week ago. Later in the year it will be much easier to take this for granted (or at least to not notice the beauty of birdsong.) Of course when I teach a workshop at Philips Exeter in late June, it is hard to ignore the incredibly loud birds that start right around 4:30 AM right outside my dorm window ; (
    But we need to think about nature as Rachel Carson described in The Sense Of Wonder–> we need to observe the night sky or the birds in the trees, or the meadow flowers as though it was the last time we were ever going to experience it again. AND we need to pass this WONDER along to our children and to our students. Carson wrote that she would endow every child with “a sense of wonder so indestructible that it would last throughout life.” However, “if a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement, and mystery of the world we live in.”

    The word cloud was made with a web application called Wordle at You paste in a paragraph or what-have-you and the application creates the word cloud. Then I do a screen capture jpg and insert as needed. I try to select text that I think will look good–in this case I wanted Environment, creek, students, Earth, watershed, etc. RB

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URL

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.